Tsonga and Sock Make it Two Titles For 2017 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Three of the four semifinalists in Marseille were Frenchmen, and that lead to an all French final as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga edged past Lucas Pouille 6-4 6-4 for his ninth straight match win, and his second straight title after winning Rotterdam the weak prior. A rejuvenated Tsonga eased past Illya Marchenko and Gilles Simon earlier in the week, with his toughest win coming against Nick Kyrgios in three sets.
The 23 year old Pouille snapped a losing streak and defeated Aljaz Bedene, Daniil Medvedev, and Richard Gasquet to reach the final as a bit of a surprise this week. The doubles champions were also French, as Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut beat Robin Haase and Dominic Inglot in the final, needing a third set super tiebreak to do it.
An eight career ATP title was on tap for Dominic Thiem in Rio. The Austrian captured the 500 level tournament on clay without dropping a set all week. Pablo Carreno Busta was his victim in the final by a score of 7-5 6-4. Thiem also defeated Janko Tipsarevic, Dusan Lajovic, Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, and Albert Ramos over the course of the tournament.
PCB scored wins over Joao Souza, Victor Estrella, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and teenager Casper Ruud to reach the final. The young Ruud was poised to reach the final after winning the second set of their semifinal, but he collapsed in the third set, taking a bagel against the Spaniard. Singles finalist Carreno Busta paired with Pablo Cuevas to win the doubles title over Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
ATP Delray Beach
Unable to physically compete, Milos Raonic dropped out of a slated Delray final with Jack Sock, handing Sock his second title of 2017, this one coming via walkover. Sock has just one loss this season and defeated Radu Albot, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Steve Johnson, and Donald Young to reach the final. His wins over Johnson and Young providing further evidence that he’s clearly the ATP tour’s best American right now.
Raonic defeated Tim Smyczek, Borna Coric, Kyle Edmund, and Juan Martin Del Potro before injuring his back. The Manitoba Missile continues to look good in 2017, but time will tell if the injury sets his season back.
Rajeev Ram and Raven Klaasen paired up to put away veterans Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi in the doubles final.
2017 ATP Rio de Janeiro Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Golden Swing on South American red clay has its marquee event this week, as it’s time for some tennis Brazilian style in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a 500 level event, and here is your preview, with predictions.
Rio Open Presented by Claro
ATP World Tour 500
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
February 20-26, 2017
Prize Money: $1,461,560
Top 4 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Kei Nishikori (5)
2: Dominic Thiem (8)
3: Pablo Cuevas (22)
4: Pablo Carreno Busta (25)
Compared to last week’s Rotterdam 500 Rio isn’t near as strong, but it’s still an improvement on the previous two weeks of 250 level stops on South American clay.
First round matches to watch:
(1)Kei Nishikori vs. Thomaz Bellucci
Nishikori has suffered three losses this season compared to nine wins, but it still seems like he’s underperforming his ranking. Even coming off a run to the final in Buenos Aires, it’s expected Kei will be able to defeat the big hitting home hero Bellucci, but the h2h is 1-1, Bellucci isn’t bad on clay, and he should be fresher. I’ll go with Nishikori to win, but I have Bellucci taking a set.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. (6)David Ferrer
The aging Ferrer leads the h2h 8-3, but Dolgopolov comes off the title in Buenos Aires and has won two of their last three meetings. Ferrer has been in terrible form this season, posting just three wins, compared to three losses. The shotmaker Dolgopolov is erratic in his own way, having struggled for months before winning in Buenos Aires. Dolgo tends to struggle off of long, tiring weeks of tennis though, giving Ferrer an opportunity to kickstart his 2017 with a quality win.
After reaching the final in Buenos Aires, Nishikori will big once more for a title on South American clay. After taking on Bellucci in what should be a rowdy match, another Brazilian, Thiago Monteiro should follow. Monteiro opens with Gastao Elias after reaching the quarterfinals in BA. Nishikori is simply a better player than either Brazilian, his quarterfinal should be against Portugese #1 and BA quarterfinalist Joao Sousa. Sousa opens with qualifier Roberto Carballes Baena (2-1 h2h), with the winner of Casper Ruud and Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva to follow. The young Ruud is talented enough to win in round 1 over the journeyman RDS, but Sousa should reach the quarters before falling to Nishikori just like what happened last week on clay in BA.
I have an all-Spanish quarterfinal in the second part of the draw, Former Rio champion Ferrer will face either Carlos Berlocq or Horacio Zeballos in round 2 after battling Dolgo. Berlocq stunned Ferrer at home in BA, but the fan-favorite journeyman is 34, and after reaching the BA semifinals he should be fatigued. I have Ferrer getting revenge over Berlocq in round 2. Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta should have another good week. PCB opens with Joao Souza and after semifinals in BA, he should reach at least the quarterfinals in Rio with a win over either Gerald Melzer or defending Rio finalist Guido Pella, who is struggling. Now a solid part of the ATP’s top 30, Carreno Busta should reach consecutive semifinals with a win over Ferrer.
45-13 on clay over the last two seasons, Austria’s Dominic Thiem is journeying over from Europe to take part in his first clay court tournament of 2017. Thiem reached the quarters in Rotterdam, but has performed below lofty expectations thus far. He’ll open with struggling veteran Janko Tipsarevic, another Serbian, Dusan Lajovic, should follow for Thiem, presuming Lajovic does away with a struggling Facundo Bagnis. Thiem’s first difficult match should come against Paolo Lorenzi/Federico Delbonis or Diego Schwartzman in the quarters. The Italian veteran Lorenzi opens with Federico Delbonis, Diego Schwartzman or Renzo Olivo will follow. The 35 year old Italian was a finalist in Quito, and although he’s struggled against Delbonis in recent matchups, I have him notching a slight upset and then falling to DSS, who isn’t playing poorly at all, and should beat Olivo in round 1. Thiem should edge Schwartzman in the quarters.
Defending champion Pablo Cuevas isn’t playing his best tennis, but young qualifier Arthur De Greef likely hasn’t developed enough to beat him in round 1. Cuevas should then do away with qualifier Nicolas Kicker (or qualifier Marco Cecchinato). In the quarters Albert Ramos, 4-2 in his last two clay court tournaments, is likely to be on the other side of the net. Ramos opens with Stephane Robert, he’ll then face a veteran, either Fabio Fognini or Tommy Robredo in round 2. Robredo just beat Fognini last week in BA, given he did so in straight sets, I have him winning for the second week in a row before falling to Ramos. Despite Cuevas 4-1 h2h edge over Ramos, Ramos is in better form and I have him reaching the semifinals.
I wouldn’t count an Argentine or Brazilian player to make a run this week, and Schwartzman is my dark horse pick. Lorenzi and Thiem are not easy early round opponents, but both are beatable, and Thiem may be fatigued. Schwartzman has shown he has a well-rounded game and can play his best tennis on clay, if he finds his groove he could make a mark this week like Berlocq and Dolgopolov did last week.
Semis Nishikori d. Carreno Busta
Ramos d. Thiem
Nishikori has lost six straight ATP finals and badly needs to win one for his own confidence, he should edge past PCB. I have Ramos finding more success against a likely tired and vulnerable Thiem. Ramos won their only h2h match (on a hard court), which should give the Spaniard confidence.
Final Nishikori d. Ramos
Nishikori has lost on clay to Ramos before, but he’s won more often than not in this matchup. and as mentioned, badly needs an ATP title.